Jamaican Curry Chicken Recipe: The Heart of Caribbean Cuisine

Jamaican curry chicken is more than just a dish; it’s a journey to the heart of the Caribbean. With every bite, you’re transported to the sun-kissed beaches, vibrant markets, and lively streets of Jamaica. But what makes this recipe so special? Let’s dive in.

History of Jamaican Curry Chicken Recipe

Origins of Curry in Jamaica

Jamaican cuisine is a rich blend of various cooking techniques, flavors, and spices influenced by a myriad of cultures including Amerindian, African, Irish, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Indian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern. The diverse groups of people who have lived on the island over the years have shaped these influences. Additionally, local farmers now cultivate crops introduced from tropical Southeast Asia, which has led to the inclusion of a wide range of seafood, tropical fruits, and meats in Jamaican dishes.

Other regions introduced some Jamaican dishes to the island, and locals have modified them to include local produce and spices. Others are unique or fusion dishes that have evolved locally. Notable dishes include curry goat, fried dumplings, ackee and saltfish, and Jamaican patties.

East Indian indentured laborers influenced the history of Jamaican curry chicken. After slave emancipation, these laborers showcased their culinary skills in Jamaica, particularly with curry. Jamaican chefs used curry to season goat meat, leading to the famous curry goat dish. The article doesn’t delve deeply into curry chicken. However, it suggests that East Indian laborers’ introduction of curry had a significant impact on Jamaican dishes. If you’re interested in another variation, you might want to check out this Instant Pot Coconut Curry Chicken recipe.

Evolution Over Time of Jamaican curry chicken recipe

The Rastafarian community has influenced Jamaican cuisine with its vegetarian approach. They introduced many unique vegetarian dishes. It’s important to note, though, that while Rastafarians avoid pork, dishes like stew pork and jerk pork remain popular in Jamaica.

Jamaican cuisine gained global popularity, especially in the 20th century. Many Jamaicans migrated for economic reasons, introducing their cuisine to places like North America and the UK. For instance, modern tools like the Instant Pot have been used to create variations of traditional dishes, such as this Instant Pot Coconut Curry Chicken.

Ingredients Breakdown of Jamaican curry chicken recipe

Jamaican Cuisine: Jamaican cuisine is a melting pot of various culinary traditions, and its ingredients reflect this rich diversity. Here’s a breakdown:

Seafood, Tropical Fruits, and Meats: The island’s location provides an abundance of these, which are staple ingredients in many dishes.For a sweet treat after your meal, consider trying the Lemon Blueberry Bread.

Spices and Flavors: Influenced by various cultures, Jamaican dishes often incorporate spices like allspice (pimento), scotch bonnet peppers, ginger, garlic, thyme, and nutmeg.

Crops from Southeast Asia: Many tropical crops introduced from Southeast Asia are now grown locally and have become integral to Jamaican cuisine.

Local Produce: Ackee, a fruit brought to the island by West African peoples, is a prime example. It’s a key ingredient in the national dish, ackee and saltfish.

European Influences: Dishes like escovitch fish, influenced by Spanish Jews, showcase the European touch in Jamaican cuisine.

Meat Varieties: Goat meat is particularly popular, especially in dishes like curry goat. Pork is also widely consumed, with dishes like stew pork and jerk pork being favorites.

Rastafarian Influence: Rastafarians introduced a host of unique vegetarian dishes, emphasizing natural and unprocessed ingredients.

Curry Chicken

The history and ingredients of Jamaican curry chicken are deeply rooted in the island’s East Indian influence:

Curry Powder: A blend of spices, including turmeric, cumin, coriander, and fenugreek, introduced by East Indian indentured laborers.

Chicken: Typically, bone-in pieces are used to infuse more flavor into the dish.

Scotch Bonnet Peppers: These give the curry its distinctive heat.

Thyme and Garlic: Essential herbs and spices that add depth to the curry.

Potatoes: Often added to the curry, they absorb the flavors and provide a hearty element to the dish.

Onions and Scallions: These form the base of the curry, sautéed until translucent before adding other ingredients.

East Indian laborers introduced curry, which played a pivotal role in creating dishes like Jamaican curry chicken. Over time, Jamaicans have adapted and changed this dish and others to match local flavors and ingredients, highlighting Jamaica’s diverse culinary heritage.

Step-by-Step Cooking Guide for Jamaican curry chicken recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 scallions (green onions), chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 scotch bonnet pepper, seeds removed and finely chopped (use gloves)
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups chicken broth or water
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 lime or lemon (to wash the chicken)
  • Optional: 1 bell pepper, chopped for added color and flavor

Instructions:

Preparation:

Clean the chicken: Rinse chicken pieces with water. Squeeze the lime or lemon juice over the chicken and rub well. Rinse away the lime or lemon juice with cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.

In a large bowl, season the chicken with 1 tablespoon of curry powder, salt, black pepper, chopped onions, scallions, garlic, scotch bonnet pepper, and thyme. Mix well and let marinate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight in the refrigerator.

Cooking:

In a large pot or skillet, heat the cooking oil over medium heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of curry powder to the oil. This will give the oil a rich yellow color. Stir constantly for about 1-2 minutes.

Add the marinated chicken pieces to the pot. Brown the chicken on all sides.

Add the diced potatoes and bell pepper (if using) to the pot and stir.

Pour in the chicken broth or water, ensuring that the chicken pieces are covered.

Cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium-low, and let it simmer for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are tender.

Check occasionally and add more water or broth if needed. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Serving:

  • Once the chicken is cooked and the sauce has thickened to your liking, remove the pot from the heat.
  • Serve the Jamaican curry chicken hot with steamed rice, roti, or your favorite side dish.

Health Benefits of Jamaican curry chicken recipe

Chicken:

  • Protein Source: Chicken is a great source of lean protein, which is essential for muscle growth and repair.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Contains B-vitamins, especially niacin and B6, which are crucial for energy production in the body. It also provides phosphorus and selenium, essential minerals for bone health and antioxidant functions, respectively.

Curry Powder:

  • Anti-inflammatory Properties: Turmeric, a primary ingredient in curry powder, contains curcumin, which has potent anti-inflammatory effects and is a strong antioxidant.
  • Digestive Health: Spices in curry powder can stimulate the digestive system and increase the secretion of gastric juices, aiding in digestion.

Potatoes:

  • Vitamin C: Potatoes are a good source of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that helps with the absorption of iron and promotes skin health.
  • Potassium: Beneficial for heart health, potassium helps regulate blood pressure levels.

Onions and Garlic:

  • Immune Boosters: Both are known for their immune-boosting properties due to their antiviral and antibacterial capabilities.
  • Heart Health: They can help reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, promoting heart health.

Scotch Bonnet Peppers:

  • Capsaicin: This compound, found in hot peppers, has been shown to boost metabolism, potentially aiding in weight loss. It also has pain-relieving properties.
  • Vitamin C: Hot peppers are surprisingly high in vitamin C, which supports the immune system.

Thyme:

  • Antioxidant Properties: Thyme is rich in antioxidants, which can help prevent cellular damage.
  • Mucolytic: It can help with respiratory issues by breaking down mucus.

Lime/Lemon (used in preparation):

  • Vitamin C: A potent antioxidant that supports the immune system, promotes skin health, and aids in iron absorption.
  • Digestive Aid: The acidity can help kickstart the digestive system.

Cooking Oil:

  • Depending on the type of oil used, it can provide essential fatty acids. For instance, olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, which are heart-healthy.

Note: While Jamaican Curry Chicken has several health benefits, it’s essential to consume it as part of a balanced diet. The dish can be high in sodium, so those watching their salt intake should be cautious. Always consult with a healthcare professional or nutritionist about specific health concerns or dietary needs.

Pairing Suggestions for Jamaican curry chicken recipe

Sides:

Rice and Peas: A classic Jamaican side dish made with rice, kidney beans (or gungo peas), coconut milk, thyme, and scallions. The creamy texture and subtle flavors balance the spiciness of the curry.

Roti: A soft flatbread of Indian origin, roti is perfect for scooping up the curry sauce and chicken.

Fried Plantains: These sweet, caramelized slices of ripe plantain provide a delightful contrast to the spicy curry.

Steamed Vegetables: Lightly seasoned steamed vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower can provide a refreshing contrast and add a healthful component to the meal.

Jamaican Festival: A slightly sweet, fried cornmeal dumpling that complements the savory flavors of the curry.

Coleslaw: A cool and crunchy coleslaw can provide a refreshing contrast to the warm and spicy curry.

Beverages:

Ting: A popular Jamaican grapefruit soda that offers a tangy and sweet contrast to the spicy curry.

Red Stripe Beer: This Jamaican lager is light and crisp, making it a great choice to wash down the spicy flavors.

Ginger Beer: The spicy kick of ginger beer complements the flavors of the curry and can help soothe the palate.

Sorrel Drink: A traditional Jamaican beverage made from dried hibiscus petals, ginger, and spices. It’s both tangy and sweet, making it a great accompaniment.

Mango or Pineapple Juice: The sweetness of these tropical juices can balance the heat of the curry.

White Wine: A light and crisp white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, can complement the dish’s spicy and aromatic flavors.

Desserts:

Jamaican Rum Cake: A rich and moist cake infused with rum and dried fruits. It’s a delightful way to end the meal.

Mango or Soursop Ice Cream: The creamy and fruity flavors can be a soothing finish after the spicy curry.

Grater Cake: A sweet coconut treat that pairs well with the savory flavors of the curry.

When serving Jamaican Curry Chicken, consider the balance of flavors, textures, and temperatures to create a harmonious and satisfying meal.

Storing:

  1. Cooling: Before storing, allow the Jamaican Curry Chicken to cool to room temperature. However, don’t leave it out for more than 2 hours to prevent bacterial growth.
  2. Refrigeration:
    • Transfer the curry into airtight containers or resealable plastic bags.
    • Store in the refrigerator if you plan to consume it within 3-4 days.
  3. Freezing:
    • If you want to store the curry for a more extended period, consider freezing it.
    • Use freezer-safe containers or heavy-duty freezer bags to prevent freezer burn.
    • Label the containers or bags with the date of storage.
    • Jamaican Curry Chicken can be stored in the freezer for up to 2-3 months for optimal flavor and texture.

Reheating:

  1. From the Refrigerator:
    • If stored in the refrigerator, you can reheat the curry in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally to ensure even heating.
    • Alternatively, you can use a microwave. Transfer the curry to a microwave-safe dish, cover it loosely, and heat on medium power, stirring occasionally until heated through.
  2. From the Freezer:
    • Thawing: For best results, thaw the frozen curry in the refrigerator overnight.
    • Once thawed, you can reheat it in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
    • If you’re in a hurry, you can reheat the curry directly from the freezer. Use a saucepan over low to medium heat, and allow extra time for it to heat thoroughly. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and ensure even heating.
  3. Microwave Reheating:
    • If using a microwave, it’s best to thaw the curry first. Transfer to a microwave-safe dish, cover loosely, and heat on medium power, stirring occasionally until heated through.
  4. Safety Tip: Ensure that the curry reaches an internal temperature of at least 165°F (74°C) when reheating. Using a food thermometer can help ensure this.
  5. Taste and Adjust: After reheating, taste the curry. Sometimes, the flavors might mellow after storage, so you might need to adjust the seasoning slightly. Add salt, pepper, or other spices as needed.

Note: Repeated reheating can cause a loss of flavor and can also be unsafe. It’s recommended to only reheat the amount of curry you plan to consume and avoid reheating more than once.

Variations of the Jamaican curry chicken recipe

1. Vegetarian/Vegan Jamaican Curry:

  • Replace the chicken with firm tofu, tempeh, or seitan. You can also use a mix of hearty vegetables like cauliflower, bell peppers, carrots, and chickpeas.

2. Jamaican Curry Shrimp:

  • Swap out the chicken for shrimp. Since shrimp cooks quickly, add it to the curry towards the end of the cooking process to prevent overcooking.

3. Jamaican Curry Goat:

  • This is another popular Jamaican dish. Use bone-in goat meat and adjust the cooking time, as goat meat may take longer to become tender.

4. Low-Fat Variation:

  • Use skinless chicken breasts or thighs to reduce the fat content.
  • Opt for a reduced-fat coconut milk or skip it altogether, using chicken or vegetable broth instead.

5. Gluten-Free Jamaican Curry:

  • Ensure that the curry powder and any other store-bought seasonings or sauces are gluten-free. Some might contain additives or thickeners that have gluten.

6. Mild Jamaican Curry:

  • For those who prefer a milder curry, reduce or omit the scotch bonnet pepper. You can also deseed the pepper to reduce its heat while retaining its flavor.

7. Jamaican Curry with Fruits:

  • Add tropical fruits like pineapple or mango chunks during the last 10 minutes of cooking. This introduces a sweet contrast to the spicy and savory flavors of the curry.

8. Creamy Jamaican Curry Chicken:

  • Add a splash of coconut milk or cream towards the end of the cooking process for a creamier texture and flavor.

9. Slow Cooker Jamaican Curry Chicken:

  • If you have a slow cooker, you can add all the ingredients and let it cook on low for 6-8 hours. This method allows the flavors to meld beautifully and the chicken to become incredibly tender.

10. Instant Pot Jamaican Curry Chicken:

  • For those who own an Instant Pot or another pressure cooker, this dish can be prepared in less time. Brown the chicken using the sauté function, add the other ingredients, and then pressure cook for about 15-20 minutes.

Remember, the beauty of cooking lies in experimentation. Feel free to adjust the ingredients and methods based on your preferences and dietary needs. Enjoy your culinary journey with Jamaican Curry Chicken!

Origins and Influences of Jamaican curry chicken recipe:

  1. East Indian Influence: The presence of curry in Jamaican cuisine can be traced back to the arrival of indentured laborers from India in the late 19th century. After the abolition of slavery, these laborers were brought to the Caribbean, including Jamaica, to work on sugar plantations. They brought with them their culinary traditions, spices, and cooking techniques, including the use of curry.
  2. Adaptation and Integration: While curry was an Indian import, Jamaicans made it their own by incorporating local ingredients and flavors. For instance, the use of scotch bonnet peppers in Jamaican curry dishes adds a distinct Caribbean heat that’s not typically found in traditional Indian curries.

Symbolism and Traditions:

  1. Unity in Diversity: Jamaican Curry Chicken, like many dishes in Jamaican cuisine, symbolizes the melting pot of cultures that the island represents. It’s a testament to how different communities can come together, blend their traditions, and create something unique and delicious.
  2. Celebrations and Gatherings: Curry dishes, including curry chicken and the more traditional curry goat, are often served at celebrations, parties, and family gatherings. They’re seen as festive dishes, perfect for communal eating and sharing.
  3. Economic Significance: Over time, as Jamaicans migrated to other parts of the world, they took their cuisine with them. Jamaican restaurants and food businesses have sprung up in many countries, with dishes like Jamaican Curry Chicken becoming popular and contributing to the global culinary landscape. This has economic implications, promoting Jamaican culture and providing economic opportunities for Jamaicans abroad.

Cultural Identity:

  1. National Pride: Food is a significant part of any culture’s identity, and Jamaican Curry Chicken is no exception. It’s a dish that Jamaicans are proud of and is a representation of their rich cultural heritage.
  2. Storytelling: Every dish has a story, and the story of Jamaican Curry Chicken is one of migration, adaptation, and fusion. It tells of the Indian laborers who came to the island, the blending of their traditions with those already present, and the creation of a dish that, while rooted in Indian culinary traditions, is unmistakably Jamaican.

In conclusion, Jamaican Curry Chicken is more than just a dish; it’s a reflection of Jamaica’s history, its diverse influences, and its ability to adapt and create. It stands as a testament to the island’s rich cultural tapestry and the unity that food can bring among diverse communities.

Tips from Jamaican Chefs for Jamaican curry chicken recipe

1. Authentic Ingredients:

  • Jamaican Curry Powder: It’s essential to use Jamaican curry powder to achieve the bright yellow color characteristic of Jamaican curry dishes. A reddish-brown curry suggests the use of non-Jamaican curry powder.

2. Marinating the Chicken:

  • Thorough Seasoning: Add all the ingredients to the chicken except for the potato and carrot. Rub the seasoning into the chicken to ensure it’s well-coated.
  • Marination Time: The chicken absorbs more flavor the longer it marinates. Ideally, marinate the chicken in the refrigerator overnight for the best flavor. However, a minimum of 30 minutes is recommended.

3. Variations:

  • Coconut Milk: Some Jamaican Curry Chicken recipes incorporate coconut milk, which adds body and a rich flavor to the dish. It’s especially recommended if the side dish doesn’t contain coconut milk.

4. Serving Suggestions:

  • Rice Pairings: Curry chicken goes well with many side dishes. For instance, in Jamaica, they typically serve it with rice. While many Jamaicans prefer it with boiled white rice, on the other hand, they also pair it with rice and peas, particularly during Sunday dinners. Furthermore, curry chicken complements “hard food” (a combination of boiled ground provisions like yam, green bananas, and dumplings).

5. Essential Ingredients:

  • Chicken: It should be skin removed and chopped into small pieces.
  • Seasonings: Apart from curry powder, essential flavorings include all-purpose seasoning (or chicken seasoning), pimento (all-spice), thyme, onion, ginger, garlic, scallion, and scotch bonnet pepper.
  • Vegetables: Carrot and white potato are staples in every Jamaican curry, adding body and helping thicken the curry sauce.

6. Cooking Process:

  • After marination, brown the chicken in cooking oil. Next, add carrot, potato, and thyme. Pour in water to cover the chicken and let the dish simmer. Keep cooking until the chicken is fully cooked and the water thickens into a curry gravy.

FAQs: Jamaican curry Recipe

1. What makes Jamaican curry different?

Jamaican Curry Powder: Jamaican curry powder has a unique blend of spices that sets it apart from other curry powders. It often includes turmeric (which gives it a bright yellow color), coriander, fenugreek, cumin, and allspice (pimento). The inclusion of allspice is particularly distinctive to Jamaican curry.
Heat Level: Jamaican curries often incorporate scotch bonnet peppers, which are native to the Caribbean and are known for their intense heat and fruity flavor. This gives Jamaican curry its characteristic spicy kick.
Additional Ingredients: Jamaican curries often include local ingredients like thyme and allspice, which are not typically found in other curry traditions.

2. What is Jamaican curry sauce made of?

Base Ingredients: The primary ingredients for Jamaican curry sauce include Jamaican curry powder, onions, garlic, scallions, thyme, and scotch bonnet peppers.
Liquids: Chicken or vegetable broth, or water, is added to create the sauce. Some variations also include coconut milk for a richer flavor.
Vegetables: Potatoes and carrots are commonly added, which not only provide substance but also help in thickening the sauce.

3. How do you thicken a Jamaican curry?

Potatoes: As the potatoes cook, they release starch into the curry, which naturally thickens the sauce.
Reduction: Simmering the curry on a low heat allows the liquid to reduce, resulting in a thicker sauce.
Cornstarch or Flour Slurry: If you want a thicker consistency quickly, mix cornstarch or flour with some water to make a slurry and add it to the curry.However, this method is less traditional.

4. What makes Caribbean curry different?

Diverse Influences: The Caribbean is a melting pot of cultures, and its curry reflects African, Indigenous, European, Indian, and Chinese influences.
Use of Local Ingredients: Caribbean curries often incorporate local herbs, spices, and ingredients not found in other curry traditions. For example, in Trinidadian curry, they might use shadow beni (culantro), while in Jamaican curry, allspice is a common ingredient.
Coconut Milk: Many Caribbean curries, especially those from regions like Trinidad and Tobago or Guyana, often include coconut milk, giving the curry a rich, creamy texture and flavor.
Heat Source: Caribbean curries get their spiciness mainly from peppers, especially the scotch bonnet or habanero.

Read more

  1. History of Jamaican Cuisine – A detailed look into the evolution of Jamaican food over the centuries.
  2. Caribbean Culinary Traditions – Explore the diverse culinary traditions of the Caribbean islands.
  3. Curry’s Journey from India to Jamaica – Discover how curry made its way from India to the Caribbean and its lasting impact.

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